As we appreciate the stunning annual display of the cluster of stars that reappear in our night skies every winter, we know that Matariki and the Māori New Year have arrived. In celebration of this, local Te Roopu Mahi Kākahu weaving group have organised an event on Friday this week (24 June) where they will be displaying their year’s worth of work to the public at The Lost Spring in Whitianga.
“Matariki is a time to honour those who are no longer with us and bring whānau, friends and the community together to reflect on the previous year to and look forward to the new year,” says expert weaver and kaiako (teacher) of Te Roopu Mahi Kākahu group, Deborah Phillips. “Hence Te Roopu Mahi Kākahu group is happy to welcome all who are interested in coming along to help us celebrate Matariki through our weaving.”
The weavers will be demonstrating their weaving from 11:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm to 2:00pm. Presentations will be taking place from 12:00pm to 1:00pm, and 2:00pm to 3:00pm where each weaver will strut their stuff and the audience will be able to view their mahi.
Lunch will also be available. Guests must make sure to book in and pay for their meals with The Lost Spring directly.
Each weaver has woven two cloaks this year, which they will be displaying at the event. One cloak is a full-sized, traditional kākahu and the other is a smaller version - an impressive feat, considering one full sized kākahu can use up to 20,000 feathers and can take up to two years to make.
Te Roopu Mahi Kākahu was initiated exactly a year ago on Matariki, after Deborah struck up a conversation in a local op shop with a Whitianga Social Services volunteer. “They took my idea to management and ever since then, we have hit the ground running,” says Deborah. “I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank Whitianga Social Services for the ongoing support they show towards our group in terms of funding and allocating space for our weekly classes on a Thursday.
“Despite using contemporary materials, we are traditional in our tikanga (method) to honour our culture and tipuna (ancestors). My goal is to revive Māori heritage through teaching women to weave and for every household to eventually have their own kākahu. Lots of people don’t know about their culture and weaving is a gentle way of immersing ourselves in te ao Māori (the Māori worldview).
“I have seen the many positive effects weaving has had on people’s lives, for instance, increased self-esteem and a sense of belonging. When we learn about our culture, it makes us better people because we understand ourselves.
“We all - especially those who, only a year ago, didn’t know how to weave and now can - are very excited to share our our progress with everyone who stops by on Friday. We look forward to what we’re going to weave this coming year and to further accomplishments.”
Friday is also a public holiday. Its the first time Matariki is formally recognised in New Zealand.
Pictured are the members of Te Roopu Mahi Kākahu weaving group. Back, from left: Jo Waite, Adrienne Jervis, Susan Griffiths and Laveena Berryman. Front, from the left: Bess Kingi Edmonds, Deborah Phillips, Vicki Southon and Sandy Gaskell.